How Well Do Your Kids Eat (Really)?

Updated on February 10, 2013
J.M. asks from Fox River Grove, IL
45 answers

I try so hard to feed my kids healthy foods but I usually feel like I just fail!! They do have a couple fruits or vegetables every day but then I am exhausted by dinner time and end up caving to the convenience of that mac n cheese box or chicken dinos. And no, I don't mean the organic mac n cheese to which I add chunks of broccoli, I am talking pasta, orange and salty in a bowl. There is so much pressure to eat wheat free, or dairy free or vegan and I feel like all of the conflicting viewpoints make my head whirl. They don't drink soda and I avoid high fructose/trans fats for the most part, but I can't help but wonder if I am the last parent who lets their kids eat fruit snacks now and then or scarf down a bag of tortilla chips. They eat frozen waffles for breakfast which are pretty much nutritionally nothing and even though I pack 1-2 fruits/veg in their school lunch they also have chips or pretzels to go with it. We go to frozen yogurt way too often and those damn girl scouts held me down and made me buy cookies... so now we are eating those too. Now and then we hit up the drive through for an extra large bag of guilt. I would love to have my kids' diet consist of 70% organic veggies and fruit and the rest lean organic meats and when I hear of moms who can do this for their kids I feel like I am just failing them as a parent. I just can't afford to buy all those fruits and veggies organically or have some Paul Bunyan hunt my meat from a grass fed pasture. I guess I am just looking for someone to say, "I am not perfect with my kids diet either" lol. Am I the only one?

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answers from Spokane on

All things in moderation. NO ONE is perfect with their kids!!

Unless there are health reasons to do so, I've read that going gluten-free is actually *less* healthy because they have to process the food to make it gluten free, vs eating whole grains.

Just do the best you can - that's all any of us can do.

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answers from Tampa on

something needs to be done about those girl scouts! the got me too:( and i didnt feel like cooking this week since my hubs is out of town, so its pretty much been takeout ALL WEEK! except last night i made salmon, as requested by my son. Normally, yea we do eat pretty healthy, but hey we are all human cant be perfect all the time. you sound like an awesome parent! keep up the good work!

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answers from Grand Forks on

We have a balance. My kids get fast food once a week, and sometimes I make chicken nuggets and Kraft Dinner, but most of the time I try to make a good meal for supper. They get treats, but they are limited. I do not buy organic because it is simply not affordable. I don't think you need to be perfect.

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answers from Rochester on

First, I want to assure you that you shouldn't feel pressured to eat "wheat free, dairy free, or vegan." People only need to avoid wheat if they are allergic, sensitive, or have Celiac disease (my youngest has CD), and people only need to avoid dairy if they are allergic, sensitive, or have lactose intolerance (my youngest, again.) Eating vegan...the absence of ANY animal products...well, that's really a lifestyle choice, and in my opinion, not a very healthy one. So please don't feel have common sense, and you aren't jumping on the bandwagon. Good for you!

Good nutrition is important, but it's more about balance than extremes, and you definitely don't have to follow fads or feed your child a wholly organic diet to feel good about yourself. I'll give you examples of my children's diets, and some suggestions for replacements that are easy to do. I'll refer to them as 7 and 2, because those are their ages and their diets are completely different.

7, for breakfast, alternates between the following: cereal, oatmeal, pancake, waffle, french toast, sausage and eggs. Included is fruit and watered down (50/50) 100% juice.

2, for breakfast, almost always has a GF waffle topped with peanut butter, fruit, and water. She will occasionally eat cereal.

7, for lunch, likes chicken, sandwiches, pot pies, bagels and cream cheese. I always serve a few sides...veggies, fruit, cheese, crackers, etc...and she drinks skim milk. Instead of buying chicken nuggets you can make your own, which really doesn't take that long, and bake them in the oven. Sandwiches can be made on whole wheat bread and include lean meats like turkey, chicken, etc...and nothing wrong with a little roast beef.

2, for lunch, will have yogurt, tuna, GF Annie's mac and cheese, a peanut butter sandwich on GF bread, GF whole pollock fish sticks, tamales, etc...also has fruit and veggies with these. The mac and cheese is no more than once a week, and it's not that bad, honestly...better than Kraft. I try to limit the tuna because of the mercury, but she does really like it. I have quit buying chips, because they are one of those things that no one can seem to eat in moderation.

For dinner, we always have a well balanced meal...meat, veggies, grain, etc. Everything from tacos to meatloaf, pork loins to roast, grilled cheese and tomato soup to spaghetti, homemade enchiladas to shrimp salsa, stir fry to homemade pizza, get the idea. Regular, home cooked meals...and when America ate this way, instead of at restaurants and McDonald's on a regular basis, we didn't have the problem with obesity.

Snacks are yogurt, fruits, cheese sticks, cereal, rice cakes, air popped popcorn, etc.

But ALL that being said, NO one is perfect and you don't have to be! Did I buy my kids a box of Mike and Ike's today at the grocery store? YUP! Do we have frozen yogurt in the freezer? YUP!! Did I buy a bag of mini marshmallows because my toddler asked? YUP!! Did I buy two candy bars and hide them above the sink for myself later? SURE DID! (Oh, I went grocery shopping today.) :) There is nothing wrong with this moderation. Do I keep it on in, if I run out, do I make it a point to buy more? No. I buy a set amount of "treats" once a month, and when they are gone, they are gone.

Please don't feel guilty. If you slowly make small changes, within a few months you will see a big difference. You're doing fine!

**I do want to add that you can absolutely take strides not to have an entire day full of fast food, processed garbage, SUGAR added to milk, and juice. I realize we all have our off days...I mean, I'll grab the cereal too if we have somewhere to go and I'm in a hurry...but people can make a huge difference by using common sense...i.e. not adding sweetener to milk, or cramming snack after snack in between meals. I get the impression that this isn't your issue!!! :) I honestly get the impression that you understand and implement a well balanced diet for your children.

And I DO want to go scarf down a bag of tortilla chips. I do that, occasionally. ;)

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answers from Dallas on need a little junk. They'd go crazy for it when they can get get it themselves, otherwise. I'd say we eat healthy 90% of the time. I get all our fruits, veggies, and meats through an organic co-op, or from a natural store. (I have family there, so I get a good discount!) BUT, I have one child, I stay at home, and my husband is home a lot. I have no good reason not to do so. I have time to do this, and I've begun to realize how much of a luxury that really is. Not everyone has the luxury of time, in fact...most don't. If it makes you feel any better, if I had more kids...I'd be so stressed, that I would just throw boxes of stuff at them, and be curled in the fetal position all day!!! I can't even comprehend how people with more then one child get anything done, let alone feed their family. Sounds like you're doing fine, mom. Don't be so hard on yourself!! Life is busy, we all just do what we can. You sound normal and totally OK.

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answers from Chicago on

We don't eat organic. My son hates almost all vegetables but will take one bite at dinner because that is our house rule. I won't force him to eat them all as long as he takes ONE good bite.

We eat a lot of fruits, and I always have fresh produce and cook pretty much every night during the week.

Today, for instance:
Breakfast was eggs and toast.
Lunch was half a PB & J and some greek yogurt with sliced peaches.
Tonight was a lazy dinner on my part and I cut up a chicken breast and dusted it in some flour before cooking it in a pan as "nuggets" which my son ate with ketchup, I made some quick mac and cheese (velveeta melted over veggie noodles), and boiled some green beans in the water while the pasta was cooking because I was too lazy to steam them. I was able to go simple for my son since I had leftovers for my husband and I.

I do sometimes have frozen chicken nuggets in the house (Trader Joe's or the dinosaur ones) as a convenience, and I always have a couple boxes of Kraft mac and cheese on hand (though my kid won't usually eat it, my husband does). I don't keep a lot of bad stuff in the house (no juice, very little processed stuff other than the Kraft Mac & Cheese, and lately, velveeta because my son will eat mac and cheese if I make it with velveeta), I always buy whole wheat bread and have lots of fresh fruits and veggies. If I buy the "easy" stuff I will do it every single night out of laziness, so I guess I sort of force myself to cook by not buying it.

However - I have ONE kid and I stay home so cooking a "real" meal every night isn't too difficult (I spend about an hour each day cooking because I enjoy having dinner on the table when my husband gets home and eating as a family). My kid helps me cook a lot and I think that's important, so when I make bread or something he helps me knead it or roll it out. BUT - My kid eats too many "treats" like marshmallows, those dried fruit leather things AND we do go out to eat about twice a week at places like Corner Bakery or a burger joint which basically means oil city.

I know lots of people who feed their kids like hamsters. One of them in particular drives me insane because he acts like he is starving and is always stealing my son's lunch at the park or playplace (and I mean, like, grabbing handfuls and shoving it into his mouth like a wild child). As long as your kids aren't overweight or underweight or looking malnourished, you're doing it right. You try when you can, but life isn't always a portrait out of the 1950's "Being a good housewife" magazine and sometimes you just need to shove some McDonald's down your kid's gut so you can get to where you need to be and stop the whining. Plus, I find that the more a mom talks about organic this or that or making their own goldfish crackers (I tried this once, I don't recommend it), the less likely it is that it's truly a lifestyle and not just a current craze. If you stress about every meal every day, you're going to get burned out. It sounds like you're making healthy choices when you can, and that's all any of us can do!

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answers from Washington DC on

I figure my kids are pretty blessed to have 3 square meals a day and two snacks. So as long as they are getting something in their little bodies to keep the moving, I'm good. Let go of all of the rest of it - don't compare yourself and your family to others.

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answers from Fargo on

I laughed so hard when you said the girl scouts held you down and made you buy cookies! I feel the same way! :) Love it!

Do what you can. We eat VERY healthy, but we didn't do it all at once. We aren't wheat free or dairy free, because we just don't have to be. We aren't vegan- even though that WAS a part of my life a long time ago. By the way, being vegan almost ruined my parent's health permanently. It's not for everyone!

As for our healthy lifestyle....... I do need to say that we regularly stock fruit snacks, jello, and candy. My kids have Type 1 diabetes and there is nothing like a pack of fruit snacks to bring them up from a dangerously low blood sugar. I tried EVERY healthy sugar/carb, but the crappy stuff is the way to go for that. Ironically, we never had that stuff in our house before the kids were diagnosed. Go figure! :)

I don't think you are failing your kids. I think you are doing the best you can. Don't beat yourself up!

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answers from Houston on

Heck I actually let my kids have soda sometimes and I still think they eat pretty healthy. Let's see, today me and my three kids shared a big breakfast at McDonalds bc we needed to get out of the house and have a little play date. We got home and they were hungry and tired so they asked for a small bowl of lucky charms as a snack, they were gobbling it down so well I refilled the bowls, gave everyone half a banana and called it lunch! I need to grocery shop and managed to run out of fruit so, snack today was just milk with stevia drops and some pretzel goldfish i think and dinner was Mac n cheese and a side of broccoli, the steam in the bag kind :). On the way to my oldest martial arts class everyone had a cookie and after it was those packages of crackers where u spread that salty cheese all over them with a stick and apple juice. think I can safely say you are not alone!! We definitely have days that are waaaaay healthier than that, but hey a junkie say now and then isn't the end of the world IMO :).

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answers from Detroit on

There is no proof that eating organic is in anyway better than eating regular old food. To me diet is all about balance. I try to serve a vegetable or salad with every dinner.. but some nights.. (like last night) the kids have an activity and we dont get home until 630 so we have a quick frozen pizza for dinner. My kids are basicly healthy.. they are tall and skinny. They get an average amount of kid viruses that go around the school.

On a good day they get 3 fruits and 2 veggies in a day. But most days it is 2 fruits adn 1 veggie.. some days are worse..

Dont worry.. your kids are fine.. you didnt eat organic as a child and you survived..

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answers from Houston on

I am not perfect with my kids diet either, there I said it with you ;)
Stop with the 'wheat free, dairy free, vegan... blah blah blah. If you don't want to go that route, don't. It's that easy. You shouldn't feel pressured. It sounds like your kids are eating foods they want to eat and you are interjecting some 'healthy' stuff in there now and then. And don't worry about the organic benefits, those are 'marginal' at best. That's been proven over and over again.
Good luck.

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answers from Detroit on

What I find that despite trying to be 95% perfect at home, they get so much junk at school (birthdays, treat days) or sports (the snack) that it's so tough!

I could not figure out how to do better, either. The trick was not to have it in the house. We just buy a big variety of fruits, veggies, whole grain, protein, dark chocolate and milk/water (and crackers are allowed for those melt-down times). And that's all there is. But if it's all there is, the kids eat it. It's actually not that expensive because it's really simple food and not packaged. And it is quick to prepare. I bought a veggie steamer and it's awesome.

So I guess the key here is that I'm not doing anything special at all, simply only buying at the store what I want them to eat. And they get their treats at birthdays and such. Mommy misses treats, sure. :)

Now, dinner time at our hose is crazy, don't get me wrong! 5 kids under 7. But when I used to make whatever for dinner, it wasn't any more work than serving the really healthy stuff. I don't really cook at all. Just steam veggies, heat whole wheat pasta, shove chicken in oven. Real simple!

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answers from Washington DC on

we don't "do" organic here - there are times I might pick something up but overall? nope. Not perfect here.

My kids LOVE apples and bananas...have one every day.

**I** eat the yogurt. They will eat Gogurt.

They LOVE broccoli, spinach, asparagus, artichokes, carrots, cauliflower, etc.

We eat pork, chicken, beef (steaks, hamburgers, etc.) and fish.

They love rice - I don't cook brown rice - I cook white rice...buttered noodles...french fries...yep - deep fried...

you aren't failing them. so stop putting that pressure on yourself.

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answers from Philadelphia on

Generally speaking, we eat pretty well. Lots of fruit and veggies, and minimal processed stuff from bags and boxes. For the most part.

But last week, those same Girl Scouts attacked my family, too. You know how long those cookies lasted? Not even an hour.

Tonight, we were all craving ice-cream, for some reason. Of course, we were all in the mood for different flavors. So right now, in my freezer, we have Junior Mints ice-cream, Mrs.Fields Choc Chip Cookie Dough, and my personal favorite Haagen Dazs Chocolate Peanut Butter (which, according to *several* surveys is THE most unhealthy ice-cream out there). I predict ALL the ice-cream will be gone within 24 hours - 3 cartons between 5 people, in 1 day. I feel sick just thinking about it. But it'll happen.

I will balance it with lots of physical activity, plenty of water, rest and nutritious meals. And I will not feel guilty about it. Because, like you, I'm doing the best I can.

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answers from Baton Rouge on

My daughter ate a fair mix of healthy food and junk food growing up, and I jsut limited the amount of junk I provided. She turned out fine.

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answers from Chicago on

Aw, you're a girl after me own heart ;-)

I hear every word you are saying!

I do my best to choose healthier convience foods when I need to (like the all natural: mac & cheese, frozen pizzas (with some spinach on top), Yummy brand chicken nuggets from Costco, Ling-Ling pot stickers--for me, I am much more concerned about keeping chemicals out of our foods than about fat content.

But, a few years ago I would have moved heaven and earth to eat low-carb, using every artificial sweetener I could find. I purged our home of all white bread, white rice, white pasta, etc and got only whole grains. The kids have never noticed a difference. But, then again, now I've got people suggesting that my son's ADHD could be treated if we do something called the GAPS diet, which would forbid all those supposedly healthy whole grains, and regular dairy. I. just. can't. keep. up We already cut out all preservatives and artificial colors and sweeteners. So many opinions, so little real guidance.

I wrote into Dr. Oz once because I feel so frustrated about what to give my kids, due to all the conflicting advice. Whole milk or skim? Depending upon which doctor you talk to, they'll give you a different opinion.

So, for me I do my best to eat as close to nature as I can (without going bankrupt or making our entire life revolve around it), but since I can't even keep a houseplant alive for more than a few weeks, I rely on stores and farmers' markets. I read labels and DO buy fruit snacks, but they are the Annies ones with all real ingredients, because I really just can't take the chance with my son's behavior and the possible link between hyperactivity and dyes/additives.

I pick and choose which items to buy organic: spinach & lettuce; apples; berries; soft, fleshy fruits and bell peppers are organic. Everything else is conventionally grown.

I don't stress out if other people give my kids something that I wouldn't typically give them. I do get drive-thru foods a few times a month; we go out to eat at least once a week, and if we're traveling, all bets are off.

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answers from Honolulu on

Aw don't be so hard on yourself.
You sound like a normal Mom.
We are not all Mary Poppins or Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.
And we are not Super Women.

Plus, we all have to go by budget too.
At least in my State, organic everything, costs SOOOOO much! I do buy organic as much as possible, but I pick and choose.

My kids are healthy and eat healthy and are fine and healthy and per our Pediatrician. So that's fine!

We are not junk food junkies. So that's fine!
We eat varied. So that's fine!
I cook and know how, so that's fine!
I know how to cook healthy.
But we eat take out too!
And that's fine!
My kids just had some fruit roll-ups today!
And that's fine! Because, it is not a habit.

I don't stress over it. I don't think I am a failure of a Mom.

No one, is perfect.

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answers from Jacksonville on

Oh goodness, you do have a case of the guilt, don't you?
Of course you are not the only one. I am not ashamed to admit that my daughter often eats a poptart for breakfast. Ok, well, I don't really like to say it out loud, but it is true.

Half the time she drinks a carnation instant breakfast drink (mixed in skim milk) and that's it. And yes, we picked up a bag full of guilt on the way home from karate classes tonight.

It is what it is. You do what you can, when you can. I try to buy natural foods as often as I can, but I don't let myself feel guilted into shame if we eat take out. If I cook at home, it is usually pretty good. Fresh meat, fresh veggies (or frozen, which is supposed to be healthier than canned), fresh fruit, and low carbs. I use almost no salt in my cooking. A sprinkle on eggs, and on marinating meat (lawry's for the meat, usually). We grill. We bake. I do stir-fry. Rarely do I actually fry anything. And we don't eat a lot of cheesy sauces (because daughter is too picky and won't eat it). I make tacos from scratch (with no salt) but use store bought shells/tortillas.
I make pizza from home, but use a store mixed dough for the crust, and store made sauce.
But we don't really eat all that much in the way of sweets. I don't do a lot of baking. I do bake, though, and when I do, it is usually mostly from scratch. With butter, not margarine. :)

But we eat a lot of fresh fruit and especially in summer, eat a lot of salads.

I can't wait for my husband's girl scout cookie order to arrive. He said he ordered about 4 boxes this year. I am on the lookout for someone at a storefront table so I can snag a couple extras of the thin mints. :)

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answers from Janesville-Beloit on

I too am imperfect in this department, but I am trying not to stress over it. If the day ends and my 2-year-old has had something from every food group, and hopefully some fresh fruits and/or veggies, I'm calling it a success! Be gentle with yourself.

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answers from Lexington on

We always had salad before dinner. I often prepared dinner the night before, after the children were in bed, and put it in the fridge so I would just have to throw it in the oven after work, or start a crock-pot in the morning. Things I'd do were a meatloaf but I'd put in oatmeal, chopped up kale, onions, sprouted beans, tomatoes, etc, so it was loaded with "hidden" veggies.

I made a lot of brown rice and lots of "stoup" (stew/soup) which could last us a couple days, and which I could freeze to last even more days. It was great over the brown rice. I have since learned to vary that with Quinoa or Buckwheat.

We made all the lunches the evening before and put all the lunch boxes (3-6 of them, depending on number of children living in our house at the time) into a basement refrigerator. ALL of us took turns making the lunches. We kept a big list of lunch ideas posted on the kitchen refrigerator to choose from, in case someone was at a loss for ideas. Everyone had chores, including helping with lunch making - that includes the 3 and 4 year olds who would get paired up with me (on my turn) or one of the older children.

I do feel like I failed with breakfast. They mostly had things like cereal. On weekends I'd make a lot of pancakes or french toast - enough to put in the fridge or even freezer so they could grab that and heat up in the mornings. Sometimes I'd make scrambled eggs, veggie-egg omelet, or oatmeal & fruit for everyone in the morning. If I had a do-over, I think I'd change what we ate for breakfast and toss the cereal & milk, but what was, was.

Yes, we did sometimes resort to "Hamburger Helper", but I always threw in a package or two of chopped broccoli, peas, green beans, kale, etc.

We do the best we can do.

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answers from Beaumont on

My goal is pretty simple. I shoot for 70% healthy.

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answers from Washington DC on

She eats pretty well. Last night she had wild rice, mixed green salad, fruit and salmon and milk. She doesn't eat all organics but we try to offer her a variety of good food that will give her the energy she needs to play and grow.

Like anything, if you find yourself falling into a "lazy habit" ask yourself why? And ask yourself if there is a better option. We traded most junk foods for fruits as snacks. DD is welcome to eat raisins instead of chips. It is harder to eat junk food if it's not there. We usually skip that aisle completely - both for us and for her.

That said, I think that moderation is good and she does get occasional gummy snacks in her lunch, or a baggie with some goldfish or processed string cheese.

Rather than get on yourself for not giving them free range organic food, why not start looking at what they do get and make changes for healthier food? Going "I can't do x and y" and throwing up your hands is not necessary. Why the angst?

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answers from Seattle on

JM, stop comparing yourself to what others advertise and proclaim.

When kids are younger, they are picky. Period. Offer lots of variety through out the week. Even so, kids will usually stick with a few favorites for a few years.

Let me give you a bit of experienced mom perspective:

I personally only eat whole grains, except a lot of white rice with Asian dishes. and basmatti rice with Middle Eastern, and jasmine with Thai, etc.

My eldest daughter would have the worst runs with whole wheat anything. So I kept her on plain pasta. Next son, only loves plain pasta. I can sneak whole wheat pasta into lasagna. And if you over cook the whole wheat Mac N Cheese from a box, it's not too bad.

And fat is very important and essential for kids, so super lean organic meats aren't even the best option for growing bodies and brains. I give my kids whole milk and steaks often. My kids are athletic, active and thin, too thin probably.

Just think variety and all the colors. Some veggies your kids will never be fond of, and some they will learn to love. But it takes time and exposure and repetition. For example, both of my kids ate avocados with garlic salt after school today as a snack. Followed by a few chocolates of course. They would not have touched avocados last year and they are 11 & 14 years.

Views are just that JM, just views. Offer variety and they will get what they need. A child's digestive is well tuned to take what it needs.

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answers from Augusta on

ok honestly a little bit of "junk" isn't going to hurt kids. You sound like you've got a good balance.
I think the "organic" thing has gotten to obsessive proportion. A contest between moms to see who can do the most "organic" stuff.
As long as the junk isn't all the time and they get some exercise you're good.
Sure in a perfect world we would all have the money and time to cook everything from scratch organic.

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answers from New York on

i think breakfast and lunch you are doing what most people do: sandwiches, fruit, cup up veggies etc. it's the dinner that i put most value in, and that is always cooked from scratch with veggie and followed by fruit. of course, there are the 'period' days when i just don't have it in me, and those are usually fridays, hence we agreed we go out to dinner on fridays, or as you say, frozen kid stuff or mac and cheese but even those you can serve with steamed veggie with some spice on it.

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answers from Fargo on

I'm probably on the extreme here but am the first to admit, I'm not perfect and think moderation is the key.

With that being said, my daughter is an Aspie - I treat it with a gluten free/dairy free diet. It was then that I realized how bad "processed" food is. I disagree with the poster that said gluten free is less nutrition than regular food . . . I don't care how you look at it, processed chicken nuggets are nasty - gluten free or not. I researched how chicken nuggets are made and I guarentee if you research it - you will not eat chicken nuggets ever again. To me, eating gluten free is about eating natural, unprocessed foods. Are we 100% natural? No. You will find bread - regular and gluten free in my cupboards, along with fruit snacks and goldfish. It's about moderation - do they get them daily, no. I will very occassionally buy my daughter a gluten free cupcake, and then I will get regular cupcakes for the other girls - 1. gluten free is expensive 2. I don't think a gluten free cupcake is any healthier than a regular one. But I don't want my kids to feel deprived and cause an issue down the road for them. Since my husband is hypoglycemic, we really don't do desserts.

For breakfast, we eat eggs. Oatmeal - I don't buy instant (seriously, do we need that many ingredients that I don't know what they are in that little packet?), I make a big pot of oatmeal and change it up every week - raisens, apple cinnamon, blueberries. Then just heat it up in the am. Gluten free oats - I make it with milk - I feel like they are getting more that way.

Lunch - left over dinner in thermos half the time for kids, or pb&j, or deli meat (least processed I can find - and you can find, just more expensive from deli - but worth it to me), fruit, veggies and hummus.

Dinner - I do a lot of crockpot. Lot's of meat and veggies. We do very little pasta, rice, potatoes. (My husband is hypoglycemic and I'm trying to lose weight) My kids love frozen veggies broiled - even carrots are amazing broiled. I use chicken broth on veggies instead of oil or spray. I make lots of soups - freeze in individual containers for quick lunch. I buy dried beans - lentils, white beans - great in soup, I make my own refried beans. I precook my meat (no I don't buy organic unless it's on sale - I do buy the lowest fat content beef - I buy when it's on sale - so I may by 12 pounds at a time - cook all or most and freeze in 1 or 2 pounds and it's ready to go). My chicken is the hormone free, natural. Again, I will crockpot, shred and freeze.

I plan ahead - it's saves so much time and I'm not spending all evening in the kitchen - I pull frozen meat out of freezer - put in fridge for when I get home (chili, tacos, etc) or put in crockpot frozen (chicken - add black beans, frozen corn and taco packet for tacos or salads) for soups, or any other dish.

We do go out to eat, 1 x week, try to avoid drive through, but it's not always possible. If we do drive through, we try to do Subway or Wendy's (chili).

For me - not eating processed fast food is a personal issue - I'm grossed out by it. I don't judge others by what they feed their kids. My daughter's science class did an experiement with a McD happy kids - food we feed our kids - left the burger, nuggets and fries sit out at room tempurature - it didn't mold or change in the slightest (besides get dried out) hmmmm....I personally don't want to eat that or feed it to my kids. I also don't think putting all those chemicals in our bodies is good. That being said, there are times my kids do get a burger and fries. Again, not making a habit - moderation.

I'll get off my soapbox now :-)

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answers from Chicago on

Not perfect either ... I do the best I can with what I have and go from there. My son is healthy, is a good size for his age, understands what HIS body needs and wants and I am good with that. He asks before he eats something if it is good for him or not and we discuss it, not everytime but often enough that I think we are doing a good job helping him to understand good choices in his diet. For what it's worth I think that most of the people who say they do this and that with diet cheat too.

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answers from Detroit on

No way. My older son throws a major drama if I serve anything healthy to him. We have this battle every single day and it is EXHAUSTING. Once in a while he may eat an apple if I bribe him, but I have to pull teeth to get him to eat it. On the other hand, my younger son is like me, he loves fruits and veggies, so he'll eat them all the time.

I love healthy meals. Healthy meals make the body feel good. It's a daily struggle for me to cook for family members who love processed foods and refuse to eat the good stuff.

In my situation, I attribute it to genetics. I know that may sound corny, but I think there is some truth to it. My in-laws would eat junk food all the time as does my husband. I think my older son inherited their eating habits.

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answers from Seattle on

I type this as I'm eating a McRib.

We eat really well MOSTLY.

Notable exceptions;

-McRib Season (the McDonalds nearest me keeps them a month longer than most. I pretend Im not responsible for this. The manager assures me otherwise. Ironically, I always lose at least 10lbs during McRib season.

- Right before 7-10 hours of snowboarding, surfing, or cats. I PACK on the super high fat / high calorie/ baaaaad for you food on these days.

- Any time I eat at my mum's. My mum is awesome. She married a Midwestern eggs deep fried in bacon grease, MEAT and potatoes (2pounds per person per meal isn't normal?) boil veggies until paste IN butter kind of man. That we aren't all a mile wife is a testament to how many sports we played as kids.

- Any time I'm at a friends. I DO NOT CARE what I or my child eats at a friend's house*. We are there for people, not waistlines. As long as we're not eating people, then we're good to go. Purely the fact they made us ANYTHING means delight & happiness at their kindness.

* The only caveat is that Im beyond lactose intolerant (not just lactose, but all milk sugars, proteins, and lipids... Make me violently ill. Straight milk = food poisoning, 2:3 equals diarrhea, 1:3 = "When are you due?" agaonizing gas. I'm not exaggerating. I'd rather (and do) knock back a swallow of milk so I can get it out of my system FAST rather than deal with 12 hours of writhing and gas pains and dinosaur farts. This is all ESP sad for me... Because Ive eaten cheese daily for 15+ years.

- Ummmm... Maybe cheese daily for 15+ years should fall under 'not healthy'. But, then again, I guess it depends on your POV.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Neither of my kids (both teens) like a wide variety of veggies - corn, carrots, spinach and that's about it. They both like fruit so I try to always have apples, oranges and bananas out on the counter for them to grab. My son right now will have a salad for a snack.

We're often on the go so breakfast can be poptart, granola bar or fruit most mornings. My daughter's favorite food is still mac and cheese out of the box.

It's about moderation. My nephew lives on chicken nuggets - pretty much the only thing he'll eat other than any kind of fruit.

You're not alone. There are others of us starting to come out of the non-organic closet ;)

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answers from Spokane on

You are not alone :)

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answers from Seattle on

Mmmm. Pasta orange and salty.

Your kids sound like they have a varied diet. If you're getting some fruits and veggies in them, be satisfied. Your menu sounds kind of like ours. Some great, some good, a bunch of mediocre, and a bit of really bad. We call that balance! :-)

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answers from Pittsburgh on

You sound like you feel guilty. And really feeding our children a healthy diet IS important. The 'we all turned out ok' argument is truly fallacious - just look around at the number of overweight unhealthy people out there. Then look at the children - it is seriously horrifying. We are doing them no favors by pretending that nutrition doesn't matter.

Why not stop buying the things you don't want to feed. I don't buy chips and junk - I KNOW I will eat them and I know I DON'T want my son to eat them. He gets a healthy breakfast and lunch every day (whole grain cereal or (on weekends) eggs, whole grain pancakes/waffles and fruit, and lots of veggies and fruit for lunch. It is a HABIT at this point and it is no more time consuming for me to mix some fresh fruit into his plain yogurt than to put the sugar loaded kid kind into his lunch box. Add a scoop of seaweed salad or some veggie sticks and a piece of fruit and lunch is DONE - 5-7 minutes max.

DH and I have always cooked dinners together, so it is no different for us now with a child. He eats what we eat because that is what he is fed and he has no different expectations. Now we do sometimes go out to dinner - we try to go to 'real' restaurants (not child friendly ones) and ethnic restaurants so DS learns about a variety of foods. Of course most restaurant food is less healthy than what you make at home but practicing restaurant manners and being expose to a variety of cuisines has its own benefits.

There was a NY Times article by Mark Bittman a while ago about the costs of eating fast food vs. home cooked. It turns out that much of the 'fast food is cheaper' and healthy food is way more expensive is simply untrue.

Of course no one is perfect. But if you feel guilty, maybe working harder to meet the goals you wish to achieve might be a better option. Best of luck - cooking and eating are supposed to be fun.

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answers from San Francisco on

You are not alone except in the guilt! I am a grandma raising my granddaughter. I am not into all this organic stuff and really don't see the need to spend all that extra money on organic stuff. I have never eaten an organic piece of food in my life, same with my hubby, our kids and grandkids. And guess what? We are extremely healthy people. Not one of us has any ongoing health issues or concerns, none of us are over weight, there is literally nothing in our lives that would suggest we needed to eat expensive organic food!

I remember years ago, tomoatos gave you cancer. Hmmm. It just seems like they keep coming up with reasons why people should not eat the way we have eaten for half a century! And I see no value to it whatsoever!

The GD I am raising has good eating habits all on her own. She has braces now so no candy whatsoever, but even before that, if she ate two pieces of candy in one week, that was a lot for her. She loves fruits and veggies and does not like chocolate! But she has never eaten an organic piece of food in her life either. She sails through flu season without a problem!

So, cut down on the goodies, but other than that, don't worry. Your kids will be just as healthy as the ones eating the expensive organic stuff. Heck, they may be healthier because they are building their immune systems.

Put the guilt away or save it for something you really SHOULD feel guilty over. This is not it!

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answers from San Francisco on

I am not perfect with my kids diet either.

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answers from Columbus on

You are not the last person who lets their kid eat fruit snacks or gives them a cheese sandwich or mac & cheese for dinner more than 1x per week. Hugs!

You are not failing. You are trying.

If you can't afford organic, then skip it. And just buy the regular fruit & veg and wash or at least rinse before eating.

We try. But honestly, there are days when I count tomato-based pasta sauce as the vegetable (and about 90% of the time, DS won't eat the pasta if it has sauce on it).

One small victory for me/us is that I've swtiched the family to whole wheat or whole grain (for pasta, bread, rice, tortillas, english muffins, etc.) with pretty much everything. It's not the same as getting your fruits/veg, but it's a heck of a lot better than straight white bread/pasta/rice. etc. And if you can get the family to buy into it, try the 1/2 whole wheat or whole grain bread/pasta. That will up the nutritional your family is getting.

And for me, my "secret weapon" for getting fruits/veg into DS is a fruit smooth. We serve it for after dinner snack 2 or 3 times per week. I use about 1/2 cup of milk, 1/2 cup of vanilla greek yogurt (fat-free), about 1/2 frozen bananas slices, 1/2 cup frozen berries or mango chunks, 1 small handful of spinach or kale, and 1 T honey or, for a chocolate version, 1-2 T chocolate Carnation instant breakfast powder. Blend in blender until smooth. It's a healthy shake, with protein and frutis and veg.

In the meantime, I keep trying to put healthy meals in front of the family as much as I can, and cut myself some slack if we eat at McD's occasionally or I bake fish sticks & sweet potato fries for dinner....

For healthier meals, though it does get boring, I buy the frozen chicken breasts and cook those in a pan with sometimes some Italian dressing for flavor, make some brown rice (or nuke a couple of potatoes or sweet potatoes), and nuke some veg in the microwave (I buy a lot of frozen veg and that makes it faster & easier to have on hand). For kids who like sweet stuff, try adding a little OJ to carrots and cook them in the microwave, or do squash (in the microwave--it's way faster!) with a little brown sugar and butter.

I also try to use my crock pot at least once per week. Tortellini soup is one of our faves, and I make it with crushed tomatoes, chicken stock, spinach, and onions and/or sweet pepper. I can prep it the night before and put it on in the morning and have something healthy & yummy for dinner ready when I get home. Try checking out for crockpot recipes (the blogger also wrote a book that's pretty easy to get from the library) or and search "slowcooker" or "crockpot".



answers from Chicago on

Sounds like your kids are eating extremely well. My son has severe sensory issues and is doing feeding therapy because we can't get him to eat. I would give anything for my son to eat just one balanced meal in his life. He is past picky eater and as his feeding therapist told me, he is a severe case. We are working with a team of doctors. I am past the point of wishing he eats a whole foods diet (I follow a Paleo diet and eat very clean), even a spoonful of mac and cheese would be a huge accomplishment. It is maddening.

If your kids are thriving and their doctor isn't concerned, then you are on the right path. My son barely eats and is in perfect physical health.



answers from Peoria on

I feel the same way. And for the record, my mother used to give me Ho-Ho's and Twinkies for snacks in grade school (gasp!). Life really was different when we were growing up. But changing our habits is a process. Try to change it in small steps. Literally, just last week I started planning out menus so that at 4:30 I don't get that, "Ugh I do not feel like trying to plan a meal right now" feeling. It has helped a little bit. If you can do some prep over the weekend and always plan on having fresh fruits and veggies in the house. Good luck! BTW, if you can do healthy crockpot meals, that helps a ton!!!



answers from Los Angeles on

I am not perfect with my kids diet either. There, said it and it is true. I try to be as healthy as possible, but we all know kids can be damn picky! they always get fruit in their lunch, along with fruit snacks. I try to give them veggies, and am successful in them eating them about 1% of the time, and they don't drink soda, candy is extremely rare, however they do get cookies or ice cream after dinner about 3x/week, sometimes more. We rarely have fast food, maybe once every other week, but do go out to eat once a week. I think we do as best we can, and I am happy that my kids are healthy and don't have any health or weight issues at this time. don't be so hard on yourself, the majority of us are like you, not the organic and all healthy moms, which I would guess is maybe 5% of moms :)



answers from St. Louis on

I think you sound like you are doing a great job!! And I, too, cave into just making what is easy. But I do it as their 'choice' - they each get to choose dinner 1 night a week. It's usually chicken nuggets or mac and cheese. Not that they don't have that OTHER times of the week (leftovers, grandparents house, etc). At dinner we usually have a vegetable, starch and meat. Most of the time, my daughter does not eat meats...she does not like most of the textures. Son hates veggies...but I just keep offering them! They know they have to try X number of bites in order to get dessert (which we don't even do nightly..but if it gets them to eat their veggies, I do not mind giving them a cookie or two!). Son now gets cut up oranges instead of veggies (well after he tries it and spits it out). LOL We are FAR from perfect...and I usually feel like super mom when my daughter chooses to finish or ask for a second serving of a vegetable or salad. But then again, the salad is regular lettuce with cheese and ranch...and the cauliflower has cheese on it. Oh least I know I'm TRYING different things for them and hope as they grow up, they will have a great appreciation for a variety of foods and learn to eat heathly and choose to feed their kids that way. Some weeks I let them buy honey buns and have that with a yogurt and juice/milk for breakfast. Other weeks it's pancakes, waffles or french toast. Sometimes it's cereal. Most of it involves sugar. But they eat it great and add in a yogurt/juice or milk...and I think they are off to a good start. Sure they could eat healthier options...but most of them they do not like or choose to try one bite and don't like the taste (whole wheat for example). I buy sugar free or lite sugar syrup, skim milk, etc. I try to cut back the sugar where I can :) But then again, I do not think sugar here and there is going to hurt anyone. They brush their teeth and know about healthy foods. Overall, I feel like I"m doing okay...not the best but not the worst...when it comes to feeding my kids!



answers from Chicago on

We aren't perfect. We try to eat healthy, we plan a number of meals for the week and off we go. We have fruits and veggies in the house. And some snacky type food.

In the end it's about having a healthy relationship with food, and being healthy. I read portions of Ellen Satters book that talks about the division of responsibility with food:

I've come to a better understanding that not everything has to be 100% healtlhy, and we can have some fun with our food.

Having a personal chef would be a wondeful luxery. But first we have to save for college. =)



answers from San Francisco on

My husband is vegan and gluten-free for health reasons. I have high cholesterol (genetic) and a history of heart disease in my family. Both my husband and I have family histories of cancer. For all of these reasons, we eat very healthy diets. My children are not vegetarian, but when they do eat meat it is lean and usually organic. We eat tons of veggies. We honestly like them and I just always had them around when my kids were young. I am just now remembering that my eldest's favorite baby food was spinach. We go to the farmer's market a lot. My kids are also the types that will try new foods without trouble. I don't think this is my parenting; I think it is the palates they have and that this is probably genetic. I do not buy processed foods like frozen nuggets. I am not judging folks who serve is just that my kinds will not eat them. They do not like the taste. They also hate most fast food. They do like Chipotle's though and we go there often because there are healthy options and because my husband can eat there. Our one vice as a family is good pizza (there is one place in town that is amazing). But even now with pizza, I am learning to shift to trader joe's whole wheat dough and we make our own pizzas.

One more thing. I am a working mom and I am with you on the exhaustion with dinner. One way I deal with this is to make huge pots of soup (kale is a favorite), veggie chili or pasta sauce with lots of veggies. Then we will eat that three days in a row with side dishes thrown in. I know that in some families that would get really boring, but it works for us.


answers from Boston on

You are not the only one. My son lives on Mac and cheese and chicken nuggets. Everything in moderation. I usually include a fruit or veggie with dinner. You can cut corners by adding fiber/whole wheat wherever possible. My son has grown up with whole wheat pastas and breads. Yogurt/cheese sticks are also an easy snack and for the most part healthy. However, my son is known for eating close to a full container of pringles in one sitting, too.

My kid doesn't eat perfectly, and I'm okay with it. He's a growing boy, so , no , he can't live on carrots sticks and celery all the time! A pringles can now and then won't hurt him.



answers from Atlanta on

You sound like an average parent to me. Organic is healthier an all but its expensive. Thats why most people dont eat organic foods. My kids (except for my toddler) is healthy eaters. I have to shop at Sams for them. As long as they are eating fruits and vegetables, dont worry about it. I give mine vitamins to make up for whatever they missed in their diet.



answers from Chicago on

I'm with you. I feel so much guilt over food. I know my mom never felt this way, however, the way she cooks now is so much healthier than when I was a kid in the 1970's. I always have fruit in the house and we have no "sugar cereal" for breakfast and usually have whole wheat bread for sandwiches. The problem with a lot of "junk food" is that it's so easy to eat and eat. When I was a kid, if I wanted cookie I had to make them. I curb the juice and encourage water and milk. But, beyond that, I try to not be paranoid about food.

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